Spotlight on city as Zuma court battle starts

Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

KwaZulu-Natal's capital city, Pietermaritzburg, will take centre stage in the country, if not the world, when ANC president Jacob Zuma makes a decisive bid to have his pending trial of racketeering, corruption and money laundering struck of the roll.

Legal expert Robin Palmer says no charges will be put to Zuma today.

Instead the court will focus on applications by Zuma's lawyers for a "strike-out" on the basis that the bid by the NPA was "unconstitutional".

Zuma's lawyers will argue that when director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe decided to reinstate the charges against him they were not properly consulted.

The last time Zuma was in the Pietermaritzburg court was in 2006 when Judge Herbert Msimang ruled that the state had left him "with no choice" but to strike the case against Zuma and French arms company Thint off the roll.

The state contends that Zuma's lawyers are misreading the Constitution and is challenging the Zuma defence's argument that the NPA is being used to advance a political agenda against the ANC president and that Zuma is a victim of "ulterior political motives".

Judge Msimang's ruling was also to allow the state "to get its house in order" so that all pending applications involving their case against Zuma be finalised.

Crucial among these was the state's bid in the supreme court of appeal to declare legal the warrant used to seize over 93000 documents from the homes and offices of Zuma and his lawyers.

Last week's constitutional court ruling makes the evidence accessible to the state.

The controversial raids have been at the centre of several court battles between Zuma, Thint and the state.

The other important loophole was the state's application for the Mauritian courts to release a diary in which Thint representative Alain Thethard noted a meeting he had had with Zuma and Schabir Shaik.

The state alleges that the three men discussed a R500000-a-year payment for Zuma in return for protection during investigations into South Africa's arms deal.

This matter is still pending.